Florida’s efforts on the field have been rewarded in the sense that the Gators now control their own destiny to SEC and national championships. But for several players, their efforts are being rewarded in more individual manners, too.
Four Gators have been listed as semifinalists for various national college football awards for the 2020 season. The winners of the awards will all be announced on January 7 at the annual College Football Awards Show on ESPN. Florida has not had a player win such an award since punter Chas Henry won the Ray Guy Award in 2010.
It all starts with quarterback Kyle Trask, who has thrown for 3,243 yards already and is one touchdown pass shy of tying Danny Wuerffel’s record of 39 touchdown passes in a season. The senior has been named a semifinalist for the Maxwell Award, which goes to the best player in college football (essentially the equivalent of the Heisman Trophy, but awarded by a different group of people). Trask seeks to become the third Gator to win it after Danny Wuerffel won it in 1996 and Tim Tebow won it in 2007 and 2008. Trask has also been nominated as a semifinalist for the Davey O’Brien Award, given annually to the best collegiate quarterback. As would be the case with the Maxwell Award, Trask is gunning to become the third Gator to win the trophy; Wuerffel won it twice (1995 and 1996) and Tebow won it in his Heisman year of 2007.
Joining Trask on the Mackey Award semifinalist list is teammate Kyle Pitts. The junior tight end has caught 36 passes for 631 yards and eleven touchdowns despite missing two and a half games with a concussion. Pitts has also been tabbed as a semifinalist for the John Mackey Award, which goes to the best tight end in the country, and the Fred Biletnikoff Award, which goes to the best receiver. The only Gator to ever win the Mackey Award was Aaron Hernandez in 2009; Florida has never had a receiver win the Biletnikoff Award.
Meanwhile, kicker Evan McPherson made the cut as a semifinalist for the Lou Groza Award, which is presented to the best kicker in college football. McPherson is 12-15 on field goals so far this year, including 4-5 from beyond 50 yards. He’s aiming to become the second Gator to win the Award after Judd Davis did so in 1993.
And yes, the Gators’ defense is represented on semifinalist lists too! Sophomore cornerback Kaiir Elam has been named a semifinalist for the Jim Thorpe Award, presented each year to the best defensive back in college football. Elam has seldom been targeted this year, but when he has he’s made plays, including ten pass breakups and a pair of interceptions.
Of course, the players will all say that team success tops individual awards. But nonetheless, after a couple of players were snubbed a year ago, it’s nice to see them at least get some recognition on an individual basis.